The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas)

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

—                         —                         —

The Hate U Give. This is a revolutionary book.

I know I’m late to the party. Everyone and their mother has already read this book. Or seen the film.

It is truly amazing though. I highly recommend it to everyone.

Shocking though it is, this is the debut novel for author Angie Thomas. She has recently released another, On The Come Up, that I will definitely be listening to as well.

The Hate U Give deals with racial relations, growing up poor and black, and the tensions between black communities and the police. It incorporates pop culture, humour and heartbreaking pain. This is definitely one book that you will want to read in some privacy, because if you are anything like me, it will have you ugly crying for sure.

The main character, Starr, is incredibly easy to relate to. Ms Thomas created an entire world of fictional characters interacting in a very realistic setting. Starr’s voice is clear throughout the narrative. I couldn’t put this audiobook down, draining my phone from 100% power to 4% multiple times.

Even if you are not a reader of young adult fiction, I hope you will give this title a try.

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Incredibles 2 (2018)

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Incredibles 2 takes place immediately after the conclusion of the first movie. Jack Jack is still a small baby, and his family is not yet aware of his powers, although the audience certainly is!

This book highlights the struggles the kids face in adapting to their dual identities as “normal kids” in school and supers. In addition, all supers are still illegal and fighting back to regain their place in society and embraces their powers.

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I was not a fan of Incredibles 2. It definitely is not a movie that I would watch again. For a company like Pixar that had 14 years to put together a blockbuster sequel to their hit first film, I really felt let down.

The movie is meant for kids admittedly. But in my opinion, Pixar and Disney usually aim at making films that can appeal to the whole family. Parents are generally roped into watching movies with their kids, and certainly it is the adult taking the family to the movie theatre.

Now, the film generally received positive reviews from the critics and has been nominated for a People’s Choice Award so my opinion seems to be an uncommon one. But I would not recommend this movie.

I felt it was overly predictable, even for a children’s film. It lives in the shadow of the original, and all the other superhero movies that have emerged in the past decade. Another example of the sequel failing to live up to the original.

You can watch the trailer here.

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Everything we Keep (Everything #1)

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A luminous debut with unexpected twists, Everything We Keepexplores the devastation of loss, the euphoria of finding love again, and the pulse-racing repercussions of discovering the truth about the ones we hold dear and the lengths they will go to protect us.

Sous chef Aimee Tierney has the perfect recipe for the perfect life: marry her childhood sweetheart, raise a family, and buy out her parents’ restaurant. But when her fiancé, James Donato, vanishes in a boating accident, her well-baked future is swept out to sea. Instead of walking down the aisle on their wedding day, Aimee is at James’s funeral—a funeral that leaves her more unsettled than at peace.

As Aimee struggles to reconstruct her life, she delves deeper into James’s disappearance. What she uncovers is an ocean of secrets that make her question everything about the life they built together. And just below the surface is a truth that may set Aimee free…or shatter her forever.

—                         —                         —

This is the second book that I have read by Kerry Lonsdale, and I think that this author has skyrocketed to my top ten authors list.

Her writing is passionate and heartfelt. I could not stop listening to the story because I was so emotionally invested in what would happen to the characters, particularly Aimee.

Everything We Keep starts off at James’ funeral, and is told from his fiance Aimee’s POV. Obviously, the start of this book is extremely sad, but I didn’t feel like the abrupt beginning took anything away from the moment. Lonsdale’s writing is emotionally pure, and not knowing the characters took nothing away from Aimee’s loneliness, sadness and despair.

I don’t know who the original owner of this quote is, but is perfect for Everything We Keep.

“Some books you read Some books you enjoy.

But some books just swallow you up, heart and soul.”

The narrative takes place over the course of a fairly long time period, approximately two years. It also flashes back in time periodically, as Aimee recalls memories from her and James’ shared childhoods.

The story is very driven by character development rather than intricate plot points. Aimee struggles with reinventing herself as an independent women after the death of her fiance, with whom she had been best friends since childhood. The book progressed a little too slowly for me.

I enjoyed the audiobook performance by Amy Landon. She wasn’t great at the male characters’ voices though. I preferred the narration of All the Breaking Waves by Dara Rosenburg.

Overall, I loved this book, will listen to the rest in the series. This book tore my heart out at times, and was definitely accompanied by a box of tissues.

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Fear: Trump in the White House

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With authoritative reporting honed through eight presidencies from Nixon to Obama, author Bob Woodward reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies. Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files and documents. The focus is on the explosive debates and the decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One and the White House residence.

Fear is the most intimate portrait of a sitting president ever published during the president’s first years in office.

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I have read several political memoirs and biographies over the last few months and enjoyed all of them. There is always so much drama in American politics that it truly gives rise to the term “politi-tainment”. Fear, Trump in the White House appealed to me specifically because it was written by Bob Woodward, who has a long history of writing presidential biographies and is a respected investigative journalist. I figured that this would potentially be the most neutral book yet out of all the “tell-alls” to have hit the bestseller shelves in the last two years.

I learned a few new things about the Trump administration, and about Donald Trump himself, in this book. Some sections reinforced my negative impressions of him as a person and as a leader, while other points softened my judgement.

One point that comes across more clearly than anything else is this. Donald Trump is bull-headed and emphatically does not care about logic, truth, or the consequences. He regularly is quoted as responding “I don’t care” to aides and advisors, when their arguments conflict with his intentions. And while President Trump experiences extreme tunnel-vision on some topics, he is usually easily distracted in the short-term, much like a small child.

Trump does seem to care about his campaign promises more than anything else, and is dedicated to ramrodding them through in order to pacify his base. This is peculiar to me, as he regularly pivots and changes his mind on the fly about a vast variety of issues, and even conservative Republicans in Congress are reported to have begged him to let certain points go. But for whatever reason, Trump is committed to achieving those points that he was elected on and that dedication is to be commended, even if I don’t agree with his political views.

Generally, I believe that Trump cares more about being famous and being perceived as powerful, than anything else. He certainly isn’t a martyr, nor is he interested in governing to improve his country.

Woodward’s book is very factual and dense at times. There isn’t a strong narrative like other recent political memoirs I have read, such as Becoming by Michelle Obama or A Higher Loyalty by James Comey. Mainly for this reason, I didn’t enjoy Fear nearly as much.

Fear tends to jump between news highlight reels at times, a symptom of the the vast quantity of news Trump’s team generates. He even addresses the notion that Trump and his team purposely flooded news agencies with so many juicy stories during the campaign and early days of the Presidency, both so that they would dominate the news cycle and so that otherwise major stories would be quickly pushed aside for the next headline, rather than receiving more thorough coverage and deeper journalistic investigation.

Touching upon Trump’s personal life, Woodward confirms the President and First Lady sleep in separate bedrooms, long a suspected belief of many, and also describes Trump – though briefly – as a terrible father. There is extremely limited mention of Baron, Donald Jr and Ivanka Trump, as well as quite a bit of talk of Jared Kushner throughout the book. There is no mentioned of the President’s other children.

Another point that surprised me through Fear, was the significant amount of cooperation between Trump’s lawyers and the Special Counsel’s office in the first year of Muller’s investigation. I did not anticipate this and wish that I knew the behind the scenes status today.

Overall, I feel that the book finished in a weird place. It covers the campaign and approximately the first 18 months of presidency in the White House. However, it ends there. I just naturally assumed that this type of book would either cover the campaign and/or cover the entirety of Trump’s first term of office.

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Bitter Heat (Singed #1)

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She was the wood. He was the flame. After this, they would be ash.

A cruel twist of fate leaves Jasmine Hennessy stranded in a remote cabin with her worst nightmare—her ex-husband, James Roth, who she hasn’t seen in five years. He isn’t acting like the man she married, but did she ever really know him?

One night together kicks off a series of events that threatens her freedom as Roth seeks vengeance on those who ruined him seven years ago. He’s determined to bring her back into the world she left behind where money is king, reputation is everything, and people will kill to keep their secrets.

Author’s Note: This is a dark romance novel with triggers and mature themes that may make some readers uncomfortable.

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* I received a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I read Bitter Heat in one sitting. And I want book two now. Not six months from now. NOW.

Sooooo, I guess you could say that I liked it.

This is the first book in the Singed dark romance series by Mia Knight. I hope it lasts a long time because it sure has started out strong.

The hero is James Roth, a self-made billionaire who takes cold ruthlessness to the extreme. He is determined to own and control his ex-wife “Jasmine Hennessy”, and punish her for walking out on their marriage years ago.

I have a feeling that book number two will be darker than book one, which is a-ok with me. I liked that there was a strong cast of secondary characters to flush out the story. Personally, I enjoy this because it makes the fictional world the author creates more realistic with the extra dimensions, but Ms Knight does an excellent job of controlling the flow of information, so it never takes away from the key love story between Roth and Jasmine.

If you like alpha males or dark romance, Bitter Heat should move to the top of your automatic buy list. It will be released on all retailers on March 29, 2019.

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Book Club (2018)

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Book Club came out in May of 2018, so of course, I am just now getting around to watching it.

This movie is hilarious!

A few times I had to pause the DVD because I was laughing so hard, I couldn’t hear what the characters were saying anymore.

The leads in this film are all “young seniors” who have been best friends for their entire adult lives. It was awesome to see their examples of supporting female relationships, and how that was fundamental to the film.

Even though I am in my twenties,  I was still able to relate to their characters and think that women of all ages will enjoy watching this movie (though it is definitely not appropriate for children)!

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This is my favourite movie so far in 2019. I highly recommend it and it is great to watch alone, or with a group of friends.

You can watch the trailer here.

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Toxic Game (Ghostwalkers #15)

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On a rescue mission in the heart of the Indonesian jungle, Dr. Draden Freeman and his GhostWalker team need to extract the wounded as quickly as possible—or risk spreading a deadly virus unleashed by a terrorist cell. When Draden gets infected, he forces his team to leave him behind. He won’t risk exposing anyone else. He intends to find the ones responsible and go out in a blaze of glory….

Shylah Cosmos’s mission is to track the virus and remain unseen. Her enhanced senses tell her that the gorgeous man eradicating the terrorists one by one is a GhostWalker—and his lethal precision takes her breath away. When he’s hit by a lucky shot, she can’t stop herself from stepping in, not knowing that by saving his life she’s exposed herself to the virus.

There’s no telling how much time Draden and Shylah have left. Racing to find a cure, they quickly realize that they’ve found their perfect partner just in time to lose everything. But even as the virus threatens to consume their bodies, they’ve never felt more alive.

—                         —                         —

Shylah and Draden are part of the fourth Ghostwalker team that has been dominating the series the last few years. Thankfully, this book takes place in Indonesia, instead of the Louisiana swamp, a welcome change of pace from many of Ms. Feehan’s recent books.

The Ghostwalker series is a mixture of science fiction and romance. It is heavily researched before hand and I always feel like I learn new things when reading it. This time, the author devoted a significant amount of time making sure that the science behind hemorrhagic viral infections was accurate and informative.

Although there is still a significant amount of romance / love interest story-line incorporated into these books, I personally feel they have edged further into the science fiction classification. The first few were much more romance-centered than the more recent instalments.

I did enjoy this book and read it very quickly. However, I have to admit I skimmed over several sections. I am really tired of this Ghostwalker team, and miss the original characters I fell in love with, some of whom have not been mentioned or seen in the books in more than a decade. Although I am glad I read this book, I am also very thankful I was able to borrow it from my library rather than purchase it.

** Spoiler Alert **

 

 

loved the wedding scenes between Draden and Shylah. Most romance stories do not include a wedding or will just gloss over it. It was sweet that they each put so much effort into personalizing their gifts to each other, particularly given the circumstances. It made me a little teary that all the other teams dressed up to honour the couple and watch the wedding take place over video screens. This was definitely my favourite aspect of the entire book.

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Exclusive cover reveal and excerpt: ‘Shadow Warrior’ by Christine Feehan | Happy Ever After

I cannot wait to read this new book from the Shadow series! Click the link to see the cover reveal and an exclusive excerpt from USA today.

HEA unveils the cover and shares an excerpt from paranormal romantic suspense Shadow Warrior (Shadow Riders #4) by Christine Feehan, arriving June 4, 2019. About the book: Danger inspires fierce pa…

Source: Exclusive cover reveal and excerpt: ‘Shadow Warrior’ by Christine Feehan | Happy Ever After

Becoming (Michelle Obama)

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In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African-American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments.

Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare. In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.

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I listened to the audiobook, which is read by Michelle Obama herself.

I have always been a fan of Michelle and Barack and family. I liked that they appeared to stand above many political pundits, as evidenced by Michelle’s “when they go low, we go high” slogan. I was also a fan of her political and social movements, championing health and fitness for children.

Listening to this book made me feel closer to her. That is a weird idea, considering that we have never met, but I felt like I gained a much deeper understanding of her as an individual – not just FLOTUS – and appreciated what I learned. She comes across as more of the high-achieving girl next door, rather than as the “elite” I always pictured her as.

She is relateable.

She is the epitome of the American Dream.

I am a Canadian citizen. I agreed with a lot of the policies and values that were championed by the Obamas but I think I was granted some emotional distance from the political drama that always seems to unfold in the USA, by nature of my geographical distance. I remember thinking about the insane and unrealistic expectations everyone seemed to have of Barack Obama when he was first elected. He was optimistic and a talented politician, but he was still just one man who was forced to work within the same political machine as each of his predecessors and successors.

Becoming obviously tells Michelle’s personal history, as well as chronicling many of the key points in her journey through the White House. It is very informative. It also put certain things into perspective.

I am white. Michelle is black. I am Canadian. She is American. I grew up in a small town, she grew up in the inner city of Chicago. We are a lot alike though.

History that seems to have occurred so long ago – like Jim Crow laws – isn’t so long ago when you think of them in terms of generations. To have grown up knowing people who were oppressed by those laws. To know that their grandparents – your great great grandparents – were slaves…. that is a heady realization. It makes you realize that those periods of history weren’t so long ago after all. I have greater awareness for the lingering affects of this history today.

As I mentioned, I was easily able to relate to Michelle at times. I never would have imagined that she was burned out by school. That she trained to get a prestigious degree in a career that she quickly discovered she had no love for. To feel burdened down by school debt, expectations, and difficulty conceiving. I was extremely emotional listening to her talk about her Dad’s death. And incredibly impressed over her career trajectory, and professional self-confidence.

One thing I learned about her husband is that President Obama always had to have something to attain and reach for. I couldn’t help but wonder, when you have held the highest office in the country for 8 years, what else is left to do afterwards?

On a more technical note, I did find that the recording of the book dragged. The narrative itself was great, but I sped up the playback to 1.5x, very unusual for me. Most of the word count is devoted to Michelle aged 5-30, with less than I expected devoted to the Obama Family’s time in the White House.

I particularly loved the stories related to her experiences with Queen E.

One lingering question I still have, silly though it may be, is how much freedom does the first family have to redecorate the private residence? Like, did Sasha have a pretty pink bedroom when they first moved in and she was still a young girl? If I ever had a chance to meet Mrs Obama, that would definitely be a question I asked!

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Hidden (Deep Ops #1)

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Hide. That’s all Pippa can do to escape the terror chasing her. But now that she’s off the grid in a safe house, she finds plenty of interesting things to watch through the window. Like her new neighbor, with his startling green eyes, killer smile, and sexy bad-boy tattoo . . .

Run. Malcolm West is fleeing the hell he unleashed in his last assignment as an undercover cop. A backwoods bungalow sounds like the perfect place to start over. Until he discovers he’s been set up . . .

Fight. Someone’s gone to a lot of trouble to bring them together. No matter how much he resents that, and his own driving needs, Malcolm will have to dig deep and let loose the banished killer inside himself, or Pippa’s fears could come true faster than the flip of a bolt in a lock .

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Hidden is a great new romantic suspense novel from Rebecca Zanetti. It is the premiere of the Deep Ops series, and there are two more books coming up in a couple of months. I love it when an author doesn’t keep fans waiting for long periods of time!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it in one sitting. Zanetti introduces quite a few secondary characters and arching plot points that are clearly meant to carry the series through more than just the first book. I like when this happens in a series. To me, “community” within a book is what sets a series apart from standalones!

Most of the characters are a little whacky. You can tell that the world has chewed them up and spit them out and they are more than a little out of sync with society because of it. But it also leads to some interesting situations and wildly amusing anecdotes in the midst of a serious and fast-paced plot.

Even the dog is crazy!

West came up on the other side in case the dog made a move on Nari. What was it with the tie? It was blue with a red crisscross design on it. Pretty boring…

Force handed the tie to Roscoe. Snarling and growling, the dog took it over to the corner, where he started ripping it apart.

Tension permeated the room. Adrenaline flowed freely.

Forced eyed his calming dog. “I thought we were doing better with that. Hmmm. Okay”.

Suffice it to say, no one wore argyle again.

There is a lot of action in the Hidden, from shootouts and knife fights to bombs and abduction. This quote is from the start of one of my favourite scenes.

Strong arms banded around her waist from behind, and a hand clapped over her mouth. Her body seized. It took a second for her brain to catch up with reality.

She tried to scream and the large, male hand muffled the sound. The man lifted her right off her feet and turned, forcing her past the archway in the opposite direction from her car. Panic burst through her, and she started to struggle, fighting against him with all her strength.

I would highly recommend this book to readers of romantic suspense!

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